News: E-reader frustrations

E-reader frustrations

I've had my Kindle e-reader for quite some time now, and I really do love it. I like playing Scrabble on it, and I like being able to slip one device into my purse that I can pull out and read any novel from my library wherever I am. I especially like that it is NOT a tablet, which seems to be what some of the other e-readers are trying to do. However, there is one big annoying problem: DRM.

DRM stands for "Digital Rights Management", and when used in reference to ebooks, is generally understood to mean the bits of code that prevent the purchaser of said ebook from sharing it with anyone else, or most annoyingly, reading the ebook on more than one device, or from more than one bookstore. As bookstores work hard to gain the loyalty of ebook buyers, they seem to be also working hard to alienate anyone who actually wants to read their books.

I recently purchased the "Autobiography of Mark Twain" from Kobo's online bookstore because I received a discount code. I have their app on my Blackberry and my Mac mini. However, I really wanted to read the file on my Kindle. There were two problems with this:

  1. The file I purchased from Kobo Books was wrapped in DRM and could not be read through anything other than the Kobo app or through an Adobe Digital Editions Reader.
  2. Even when I stripped the DRM (with the assistance of a techie husband), I still couldn't read the file on my Kindle, because the Kindle does not read ePub files. This, to me, is baffling, because the ePub format is fast becoming the "standard" type of ebook file among every other ebookstore. (Of course, Amazon has its own file.)

I solved the problem by using Calibre to convert the file from an ePub file to a mobi file, which now works on my Kindle just fine.


  • I didn't realize until I downloaded it and installed it on my computer that Calibre doesn't strip DRM from your ebook files - it merely converts a non-DRM ebook file from one format to another.
  • To strip the DRM from an Adobe Digital Editions Reader-wrapped file, you'll need to know a bit of Python.

Is there a way to strip the DRM from an ebook file without having to learn Python, though?


Another possible problem with e-books is their lifetime.

A few weeks ago my brother ask me if I wanted his National Geographic magazine collection. I turned him down because I already have my own in boxes in storage. The reason he is getting rid of them is he received National Geographic on CDs for Christmas, so he no longer needs the hard copies. I thought this was a mistake on his part and something I would never do. Well, having them on computer might be more convenient at times, but I wouldn't get rid of the hard copies. Why not?

I have files on my computer that are over 15 years old that I've been moved from machine as the machines were replaced. But I also have software code in files on cassette tapes from the early 1980's, written on my old TRS-80 Color Computer (long gone.) They have some sentimental value for me, being the first programs I ever wrote - text based adventure games and some graphics games too, written in basic and assembly. I'd love to someday load them onto my current computer, write some interpreters (for fun) and run them. That's possible now, but with a lot of work. And as time goes by the effort needed will get larger until the tapes themselves are no longer readable.

So unless you're able to keep migrating files from machine to machine as hardware gets replaced, I suspect an e-book file bought today may not be readable 30 years from now, whereas that book in my bookcase which I purchased in elementary school 36 or 37 years ago is still readable by walking 10 steps and pulling it out of the row.

PS. I do feel bad about the trees though and will eventually switch to e-books, unless I could be sure the trees were harvested sustainably, but that's another subject.

Steven, that's a really good point. I noticed on another forum that many people had already decided to give away or get rid of their physical books once they got a dedicated ereader. This seems to me an expensive way to reduce clutter, and yes, what if those files get corrupted somehow?

Great points. Beyond the reasons mentioned, there is just something awesome about reading from a book and flipping through a magazine that I miss. I love the smell and the sound of crisp, new pages as you flip through a book or magazine. Don't you ever get tired of staring at a screen? I know I do!

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